Personal Finance, Your Take 
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Your Take: Would an Engagement Ring from Costco Bother You?

Diamonds are commodities. They’re rated by organizations on the four “C’s” (clarity, color, cut and carat) and the “value” of the diamond depends on those specifications, nothing else. So why can Tiffany’s charge $16,600 for an engagement ring when a no-name store could only charge six thousand dollars less? (a 2005 ABC News story about this very subject) In my opinion, it’s all in marketing that robin’s egg blue box that Tiffany’s jewelry all comes in.

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6 Things More Expensive Because of Marketing

Black Pearl EarringsOne of the most fascinating stories I read in Predictably Irrational, by Dan Ariely, was that of Tahitian Black Pearls. It’s amazing because what happened with black pearls has happened with so many other products through the ages, you’d think we’d learn to recognize it… but we don’t! While I won’t reveal the whole tale, Emily Bobrow’s review, which appeared in the New York Observer, remarked that in Predictably Irrational…

We learn that James Assael, a postwar ‘pearl king,’ had little luck in unloading the gunmetal fruits of black-lipped oysters when he first introduced them to America in the 1970’s. But then he convinced his buddy Harry Winston to display a string of these lovelies in his Fifth Avenue window, together with an outrageous price tag. The rest is history.

For those who don’t know, black pearls are supposed to be very expensive. :)

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Synthetic Diamond Engagement Rings

When I read this question about “fake” engagement rings, I was pretty surprised. Essentially a young man wants to get his girlfriend a nice engagement rings but can’t afford a “real” diamond yet so he was going to buy her a synthetic diamond and then make the swap later. What he wants to know is whether he should tell her or just make the Indiana Jones type swap when she’s not paying attention. Okay, I may have laughed when I read how ludicrous of a question this was, in part because of the deception and in part because of the emphasis on “real” vs. “fake” (synthetic).

Obviously the experts tell him to be truthful with his girlfriend, you had to have seen that coming (especially since it’s a column about ethics), but I want to address the idea of synthetic diamonds. By synthetic diamonds, I mean diamonds that are lab created and not nature created; I don’t consider actually fake diamonds, like QVC’s Diamonique®, to be synthetic. Lab created diamonds are actual diamonds except they are absolutely perfect and generally cheaper than naturally occurring diamonds.

Considering that the concept of the diamond engagement ring was a creation of De Beers, does it really matter, I mean when it really comes down to it, how much it costs? That’s really the only distinguishing feature between a synthetic diamond and a real diamond – the cost. Does your love mean any more or less because the diamond was created by a guy in a lab coat or eons of pressure? Probably not.

Your fiancee’s (or your) friends will still oogle over the ring, oblivious to its actual origin (no one will ask for the diamond’s birth certificate because no one will care) because that doesn’t matter. Most are just caught up in the excitement of another engagement and ultimately, the ring is only a small part of the bigger picture.

Personally, I didn’t get a synthetic diamond because it never entered my mind as an option, probably because De Beers and the diamond cartel has me, along with a whole bunch of other people, thoroughly brainwashed. :)


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